Out from the Egg of Silence: For a Topology of Song

The metaphorical example . . . of a fertilized egg which differentiates into a fully formed organism, can now be made quite literal: the progressive differentiation of the spherical egg is achieved through a complex cascade of symmetry-breaking phase transitions.
—Manuel DeLanda (2013, 11)


This paper will explore the ontology of song through the Deleuzian philosophies put forward by Manuel DeLanda and Elizabeth Grosz, with a focus on symmetry breaking and the fractal structure of (embodied) knowledge. Extending a notion I first put forward in What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research (2015), I argue that embodied research explores relatively reliable potentialities of human practice in a way that is closely analogous to laboratory research as understood by social and historical epistemologies. DeLanda’s rigorously analytical interpretation of Deleuze will form the basis of my proposal, while Grosz’s more impressionistic discussion in Chaos, Territory, Art (2008) will provide additional background for theorising the functionality of song as (topological) action.

While a typology of songs would aim to categorise and order songs as coherent units, a topology of song is concerned with the processual generation of song in time—that is, with defining the phase space of song into which individual songs, song fragments, and song-actions intervene. From this perspective, song is not an “object” in Graham Harman’s speculative sense but more like a Deleuzian “zone of intensity” or what Hans-Jörg Rheinberger calls an “epistemic thing.” While song as a cultivated organic resource may attain sufficient temporary individuality to be called upon at will, and thereby function as a relatively reliable bodily affordance, this individuality is nothing more than what DeLanda refers to as the virtual topological structure of a multiplicity. Hence, singing is an example of “the actualisation of the virtual in time” and the specific acts of symmetry breaking that we call “songs” are newly enacted each time we begin to sing—just as a natural symmetry returns in every moment of silence. In the case of song, silence is precisely analogous to DeLanda’s undifferentiated topological “egg.”

My presentation will include live vocal performance excerpts drawing on the ongoing embodied research project “Judaica,” which seeks to develop a technique of song-based practice grounded in the coordination of voice, movement, and association in the complete unit of human performance that twentieth-century theatre pioneers Konstantin Stanislavsky and Jerzy Grotowski called “action.” I will demonstrate how vocal actions may use rhythm, melody, timbre, and other embodied techniques to generate the symmetry-breaking events that we experience as song. I contend that the flexibility of song across these and other dimensions derives from its topological structure, a fact that is routinely concealed by the epistemological dominance of recorded audio tracks and written scores in the study of music. My analysis of song is intended to re-examine and foreground the centrality of embodied technique in human life and to support innovative analyses of embodied practice, which I see as fundamental to the future of artistic research.


DeLanda, Manuel. 2013. Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy. New York: Bloomsbury.

Grosz, Elizabeth. 2008. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. New York: Columbia University Press.

Spatz, Ben. 2015. What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research. London: Routledge.

Noir Désìr: About the Subjugated and Acting Body in Desire

A few years ago, our professor of aesthetics at the Academy showed us Deleuze’s L’Abécédaire. In “D comme Désir,” the following was a significant moment for me: “we never desire an object, for example a woman, but the ‘landscape’ that is what we sense that is ‘inside’ this woman and our imaginary engagement with this (landscape).” I imagined an almost empty landscape, except for allusions to a city, the perception of time (rhythm and light) and the desirous. While the waves of desire roll over the landscape, I embody that body’s desire, its tendency to receive and incorporate the external force that dominates it. The lightning strikes: you see.

Architecture and Indifference

This paper will propose an understanding of architectural sense making, or simply architecture, as a process of indifferentiation and elaborate on the role of my artistic research vis-à-vis architecture as being itself an architectural process of indifferentiation. If we can say with Deleuze that restless immanence bleeds off in itself as “a life,” then the immanence of the “architectural,” or the “architectural” in immanence, is “a” architecture contained within “a life.” In this sense of what we could also call architecturability the paper will draw on philosophical notions not so much as explanations but rather as possibly indifferent, and therefore architectural, paradigms.

Trained in architecture and involved in both research and curatorial projects, my art practices produce and explore instances of the architectural. Even though some form of building or construction is involved, such architectonic instances are better described as gestures of encounter. Encounter constitutes “the architectural,” be it as physical joining of building material or as human relationship.

With “the architectural” understood as “gestures of encounter,” any instance of life is always already subsumed under “the architectural.” Therefore it is inherently impossible to separate any research practice from its subject: research on “the architectural” finds its first field of exploration in the architectural setup of the research itself (video1/3).

The method of “inverse model building” will be used to evidence, both scholarly and artistically, such indifference between making architecture and architecture itself. In the artistic presentation, thin foil and vacuum will be used to build an inverse model in scale 1:1 of (and within) the space where the scholarly presentation will take place (video2). What we call architecture is nothing but a contingent effect of a modelling process: the model itself is not what it stands for; nevertheless, the model itself always is a model as such. This being of the model as model is contingent because the nature of such being simply does not matter for its representational function of standing for something else.

For architecture, however, its contingency certainly does matter because architecture primarily is what it is. More than a model, architecture is always an exemplar. By indifferentiating between Gilles Deleuze’s concept of difference and Giorgio Agamben’s philosophy of indifference, thus taking Agamben’s philosophy as an example, this research paper will therefore suggest to replace the notion of “model” with that of “example” in order to explore a possible paradigmatic ontology and analogical epistemology of architecture.

What is the role of indifference in such a theory of paradigmatic architecture? To grasp indifference it seems necessary to recognise that, in terms of encounter, a differentiation between two instances of architecture does not make sense, on the contrary, it is by indifferentiation, by attributing equal exemplary value to all instances of architecture, that encounter becomes an architectural mode of sense making. It is through indifferentiation of contingent encounters, be they material or human, that architecture manifests as exemplary and, finally, “makes” sense.


Agamben, Giorgio. 1993. The Coming Community. Translated by Michael Hardt. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1999. Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy. Edited and translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Athlone Press.

—. 2001. Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life. Translated by Anne Boyman. New York: Zone Books.

Hollier, Dennis. 1992. Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille. Translated by Betsy Wing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Watkin, William. 2014. Agamben and Indifference: A Critical Overview. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Dialogue I: On Performance or Untimely Fabulation

The question of the dark precursor should not be mistaken as an instant in a chronological unfolding of events. In determining intensities “in advance but in reverse, as though intagliated” the dark precursor actually lacks a sense of empirical time and it lacks its article. It is not a mere “one” but a singularity—that is, an actual occasion beyond the measure of time while being in time. What if we conceive of the performative dislodged from a simplified sense of present while accounting for its power of instauration—its capacity for making present that which is in time but never of a mere present moment? With the participants of this Dialogue, we will explore different modes of untimely fabulation, a mode of thinking and literally invoking the in-act of performance across forms of creative practice in philosophy and art. Performance becomes the point of entry for negotiating a sensibility for ethico-aesthetic attunements toward emergence, without knowing in advance how a situation, a body, or relations will play out in their actualisation. The in-act of performance designates a thought and practice in the act of its very own fabulation—that is, of the coming Dialogue.

Christoph Brunner, chair